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Mars Space Build

Modular Hive Homes Win Mars Base Design Competition 61

In June, we discussed news that JPL and MakerBot were teaming up to host a competition for designing a futuristic Mars base. The competition is now over, and the top three designs have been chosen. First place went to Noah Hornberger, who designed a base with hexagonal rooms and shielding made of depleted uranium. Second place went to a martian pyramid with an aquaponics system on top, mirror-based solar collectors, central water storage, and compartmentalized living spaces. The third place award went to Chris Starr for his Mars Acropolis, which was styled upon the ancient Greek Acropolis. It has a water tower at the top of the structure, a series of greenhouses at the bottom, and living quarters in between. The full list of 227 entries is browse-able on Thingiverse.
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Modular Hive Homes Win Mars Base Design Competition

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  • good ideas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aquabat ( 724032 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @06:47PM (#47707665) Journal
    I would lose the Uranium shielding, and just bury the thing instead. We need to use as much local material for construction as possible. As someone else mentioned above, nobody wants to pay to keep a colony going, so once we're there, it's probably a good idea to live as though we're on our own for good. If we want to sustain and expand our colony past the initial setup, we need to do it without Earth sending us stuff regularly. So, houses we can make out of Mars. That being said, I would make a couple of exceptions. First, I would ship some kind of self contained power source, like maybe a modular Thorium reactor, or something like that. Doing big construction projects is power intensive, and solar might not cut it. The second thing I would take would be fabrication tools for any supplies that can't be 3D printed, I guess. I mean, eventually, stuff is going to wear out, and Mars doesn't seem to have much in the way of tradable resources, so we're going to have to make our own stuff. By "stuff we'll have to make ourselves", I'm thinking space suits and mining/refining equipment.
  • Cute but impractical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ken McE ( 599217 ) < minus cat> on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:39PM (#47707991)

    All of these lovely fantasies have problems. The hex one adds complexity to the construction for no particular reason. The water tower on the roof becomes a single point of failure and will tend to want to freeze up. Caves would be nice, but what are the odds there'll be convenient caves located right where they want to set up camp? All of them would be complicated to build on Earth, never mind by a guy in a spacesuit

    What they actually build will be an extension of our oldest and most mature design school - the square. They'll bring Titanium or Aluminum I-beams and bolt them together. For the sake of discussion lets assume a cube ten meters on each side, maybe an overhang all around the top. They'll bolt cross pieces and panels across the top and pile up regolith on the roof for the first layer of radiation protection.

    Once they have this they'll go underneath and set up pressurized tents (if we can find suitable material for local conditions.) If tents work, they keep them. If tents are problematical they'll start building room sized cubes. The cubes will be essentially the same as the outer shell, but smaller and with caulked joints. As time goes by they'll start linking them. For safety reasons, internal air locks will be common. Water will be stored in flat compartments in the ceiling of each cube or tent as secondary radiation protection. Each room will have its own ceiling tanks so the loss of any one unit won't cripple them.

    I assume they'll have a number of tanks of liquids and gasses - Nitrogen, Oxygen, Water, whatever else they need. Up on top of the regolith layer would be the place to store them. They'll be close to hand but out of the way, and if a tank fails there'll probably be no shrapnel issues. They will also lend a little bit more radiation shielding. If they have excess sewage it will be frozen in blocks and left on the roof for the same reasons.

    The above feature will combine to something that has all the style and grace of a junkyard shack, but hey, it'll be easy to build, can be grown in stages as time allows, and it'll work. My apologies to those fancy design guys...

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @09:25PM (#47708693) Homepage

    Or just dig into the regolith.

    Finally. I could never figure out why the idea of either partial earth-shelter or underground shelters weren't considered for Mars. A shallow tunnel with an inflatable habitat inside would seem to be the ideal shelter. It would be easier to keep warm and shielded from radiation. It's not like you have to worry about flooding. Digging equipment would be a heck of a lot easier to get to Mars than depleted uranium. I remember holding a 30mm DU round and couldn't believe how heavy it was. You could blast holes or caves, although blasting doesn't always yield a stable void. Or just pile up dirt around the structures and cement it in place.

    Any of those should be feasible if DU shielding is on the table.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @12:12AM (#47709549) Journal

    I'd like to see a different competition. For the contest, I'll need some acres of cheap desert land. Nevada, I'm looking at you. The site should be selected based on similarity to Mars, as much as practical (e.g., sandy soil, rocks, etc.). It could even be in the dry valleys of Antarctica, although that might be a problem because people might see this as exploiting the pristine environment there.

    Now here's the contest.

    Based on a preliminary judgement process, participants each get temporary use of an acre. They are allowed to visit it exactly ONCE for an hour, and leave behind... a robot.

    The robot's task is prepare the surface as much as possible for human habitation. There will be a mandatory delay in communicating with the robot, to simulate the actual delay communicating with Mars. To prevent cheating, all communications will be routed through the contest organizer's central server.

    The winners will be judged based on how close they came to preparing something that could be quickly converted into a habitation by arriving people.

    A few extra details need to be worked out, such as weight and size limits on the robot. Otherwise somebody might park an old 747 there and claim victory. It also needs to be something that could survive launch and entry. Contest organizers might subject each robot to predetermined G-force and temperature excursions at the start.

    Maybe the contest should be allowed to run for a year or so. I think it'd be interesting.

    Even without the contest, it would be interesting. It's a bit of an expensive hobby and perhaps more practical as a game; but there's nothing like the real thing. It could lead to actual techniques for surface prep.

The only person who always got his work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.